Archive for November, 2009

30
Nov
09

A Phishy Taste in My Mouth

“Happy happy, oh my friends…”

These lyrics echoed in my brain as soon as Phish hit the stage in Albany on Friday night.  That’s how the first song on their newest album “Joy” begins, and it could not have been more apropos for Phish’s 2-night soiree in Albany.  The opening song on Friday was in fact “AC/DC Bag,” and the fans reacted like starving, caged pit bulls smelling fresh meat just out of reach.  And then the cage opened, and a sea of dancing, spinning and singing washed over the Times Union Center.  My smile was a mile wide, and I was not alone.

I had not seen Phish since April of 2004 – they broke up in August of that year, and had not toured together until March of this year.  I almost forgot just what a happy occasion a Phish concert is.  No, happy does not do it justice.  There were gleaming gobs of ooey-gooey happiness overflowing out of the arena both Friday night and last night, and Albany’s Department of General Services is still mopping it up off the streets.  Perhaps it was due to the long layoff for many between shows, but the crowd greeted the Vermont jam band kings with overwhelming enthusiasm.  “Maze” followed the opener on Friday, a complex composed jam vehicle with many build-and-release moments that caused the crowd to simply erupt in joy.  The band dialed it back a bit for the laid-back country ditty “Driver” and the bluegrass-infused “My Mind’s Got a Mind of its Own.”  But the crowd dialed nothing back, especially when the opening notes of “Gumbo” began, followed by the fun “Bouncing Around the Room.”  Guitarist/vocalist Trey Anastasio barely said two words to the crowd all night – he let his playing do the talking.  Trey, along with drummer Jon Fishman, bassist Mike Gordon and keyboardist Page McConnell sounded exceptionally sharp, clean and precise all night.  It seems the 5 years off did them a world of good.

The second set began with the grandiose and funky “My Friend My Friend, My Friend My Friend,” and then went into “Golden Age,” a cover song originally done by the techno-electronic outfit TV On The Radio.  Phish turned it into a super-funk-rock-dancing jam of a song, and the crowd lapped it up.  Another cover followed, Little Feat’s “On Your Way Down,” which featured an incredible solo and vocals from McConnell.  It was at this point in the show that Anastasio seemed to find some deep, emotional connection with McConnell.  He consistently looked his way and smiled during the rest of the set, and Anastasio seemed to select songs that would highlight Page’s abilities (Phish does not do pre-conceived set lists; they improvise each show).  Perennial favorite “Fluffhead” was next, causing yet another explosion of fanaticism from the audience.  “Harry Hood” and “Suzy Greenberg” looked to end the set, each featuring intense solo work from McConnell, but Anastasio commanded one more song, “The Squirming Coil,” which by no coincidence features a beautiful ending solo from McConnell.  But that would not be all, as they finally closed the set with “I Been Around Awhile,” a song from the “Joy” album featuring – guess who – Page McConnell.

For the encore Phish belted out Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire,” which is an interesting song for them.  After the final chorus it stops being a Hendrix tune and becomes a Phish song, as they jam out the last 4 or 5 minutes.

Saturday’s performance looked like it would pick up from where Friday night left off, with Phish getting the crowd going with “Party Time,” the title track from their CD of bonus material not included on the “Joy” album.  The bluegrass tune “Uncle Pen,” the cheeky insanity of “Sanity,” and the bouncy fun of “NICU” had the crowd swaying during the first set.  But while Friday’s show had an overwhelming fun and happy vibe, the band seemed to really focus on intricate, extended jamming on Saturday.  “Foam,” “Alaska,” and “Split Open and Melt” occupied a good portion of the first set, each featuring marvelous jams that highlighted the virtuosity of each musician.  The set closed with the rollicking “Backwards Down the Number Line,” a joyous tune that had the crowd dancing in ecstasy.

Set two began with the funkified jam of Seven Below, and the jam kept growing, and growing, and got stronger and stronger.  Usually when someone asks “How long has this song been going?” they mean it in a bad way.  But when I asked myself that question about “Seven Below,” it was because it was sounding so great and I didn’t want it to end.  “Ghost” followed, and between those two songs, nearly an hour of amazing funk and spacey grooves had already passed.  To settle things down a bit, Phish appropriately provided their version of the Velvet Underground’s “Cool it Down,” but then heated things up again with the rockin’ “Gotta Jibboo.”  They closed the set with two great jams, “Wolfman’s Brother” and “Julius.”

The encore was one of their earliest and best-known tunes, “You Enjoy Myself,” a funky, jazzy ride that included Anastasio and Gordon doing a dance number while bouncing on exercise trampolines.  This song is a marvelous example of how Phish can bend, mix, and meld genres to create their own unique and amazing sound.  The song closed with a 3-minute a cappella vocal jam, and then they took their bows and left the stage, off to bring joy and happiness to another town.

So how did these shows rank among the thousands of shows they’ve done?  It’s impossible to quantify it.  Each show is unique; each version of many of their songs is completely different.  The only thing consistent with most Phish shows is the stunning musicianship, the incredible jams, the beautiful light show, and the happiness of the crowd.  What else can you ask of a band?  I hope they keep it up for another 20 years.

These Phish shows get 5 out of 5 stars!

24
Nov
09

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – Raising Sand (2007)

Per Amazon’s website the pairing of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss was like  putting together “the duo of King Kong and Bambi”; and they are right. Plant and Krauss are the last two I would have thought would collaborate.  To my surprise and delight, after listening to this album I would agree that they are the perfect pairing. 

As one would realize, gone are the days of the wild Robert Plant who’s antics included trashing rooms and riding motorcycles down the hallways of the Chateau Marmont Hotel.  This album seems to take its rightful place and home to todays more mellow Plant.  After Zeppelin it can be seen how Plant decided pursue more mellow outlets than he originally had been identified with, this can be seen with his 80’s project The Honey Drippers.   It has been known that Plant has an insatiable appetite for world music and a drive to explore different avenues and styles for his future albums.  If this album was to be Plants last (which it is not I’m sure) it would be the perfect ending to a musical life well lived.  However, I do not think we have heard the last from him.

Alison Krauss is a household name in the bluegrass world, she is one of the most sought after musicians in Nashville and often is featured as a guest on many bluegrass and contemporary country albums.  Although I’m not the biggest fan of country, I do appreciate bluegrass (Ricky Skaggs, Bill Monroe among my favorites), I must admit that I am a big fan of Alison Krauss and her band Union Station.  I highly recommend her live 2-disc album if you get a chance to grab it, simply incredible.  I’ve converted several of my friends that were “anti-country/ anti-bluegrass” with that album.

Raising Sand is for playing on rainy days, background music when you are having people over for dinner, long car rides out to Buffalo, or cutting your cats nails.  It’s not for getting in the car and cranking it up really loud to relive your Zeppelin glory days.  Raising Sand is a sincere, well produced, and personal album that reflects the gifts of two excellent vocalists, two who compliment each other on every song.

The majority of songs on this album are soft and smoky, cleary a reflection of what producer T Bone Burnett can create with right combination of artists.  Burnett has produced albums for bands such as Counting Crows, K.D. Lang, and The Wallflowers.

Highlights of this album are cleary the opening song Rich Woman (nice use of harmonies and reverb together),songs Killing The Blues & Please Read The Letter;  both created the most noteriety for  much of this album.  Lastly,  Fortune Teller is a fun romp (possibly the most upbeat song on the album) full of reverb, raw acoustic bass, and Plant’s strong, emotional vocals.  Let Your Loss be your Lesson is one my favorites

Raising Sand gets 4 out of 5 in my humble mellow music opinion.

23
Nov
09

Phil Frost – Prism Gallery Los Angeles

My friend (and artist) Phil Frost, who’s designs have graced the album covers for musicians such as DJ Shadow and hardcore group Sick Of It All,  currently has a show of his work at the newly opened Prism Gallery in Los Angeles; located on the Sunset Strip (former location of Tower Records).  The show is called Mind The Gap and spotlights the work of both Phil and fellow artist Barry McGee. 

The show opened on Friday, November 20th and will run until February 2010.  Apparently, Anthony Keidis (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Joe Hahn (Linkin Park) were in attendance at the very successful opening night. 

If you are in the Los Angeles area you should take a moment to see the gallery; I’ve heard that both Phil and Barry really outdid themselves with incredible amounts of original work for the show.  According to some reviews the sizes of some pieces are truly staggering. 

For more on the show and pictures of the open night, click here.

23
Nov
09

Yacht Rock!!!

If you have any appreciation whatsoever for 70’s rock, and recognize the inherent goofiness of the adult contemporary sounds of “smooth rock,” a la Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Christopher Cross, etc. – basically that “laid back California” sound – then there us a web video series that you MUST see.  It’s not an option; you are required to view this 11-part semi-fictional docudrama known as “Yacht Rock.”

The geniuses behind this have filmed 11 vignettes, each focusing on a different aspect of “smooth rock” during the 70’s and early 80’s.  They re-create collaborations and meetings between the key artists of this genre, with extremely exaggerated costumes/hairstyles and hysterical dialogue.  I don’t want to give anything away, because I don’t want to lessen the awesomeness that you will experience.

Each episode is only about 5 minutes in length, and you can view them all right here:

http://www.channel101.com/shows/show.php?show_id=152 (scroll to the bottom to start with episode #1)

Yacht Rock gets a billion out of a kajillion stars!!

22
Nov
09

Devo Lives!

No, it is not a joke. DEVO is actually alive and well…and touring.  Having a 2-year old I have been entertained by Mark Mothersbaugh’s (lead singer of DEVO) cameo’s on Nickelodeon’s Yo Gabba Gabba kids show, but never thought that DEVO was still alive and well.  Appearently DEVO is playing in New York City’s Irving Plaza tonight 11/21 and in Toronto on Monday and Tuesday, cool! 

DEVO has been playing the same city two nights in a row intentionally in order play both albums Are We Not Men?  and Freedom Of Choice each night in their entirety, what a killer idea!  Brace yourself Toronto, I’m sure it will be a great show.

11/23 & 11/24 Toronto, Canada – Pheonix Concert Center

Why don’t more bands do this?  Could you imagine if Rush played Hemispheres and 2112 night one and Moving Pictures and Counterparts night 2? Or Metallica playing Kill em’ All night and Black night night one, perhaps Justice for All and Ride The Lightning night two?  I think that DEVO might be on to something…eh?

I’m  happy to hear that DEVO still has a following since they were definitely a defining sound of the 1980’s when I was growing up.

21
Nov
09

Led Zeppelin Video Site

Ok, ok,  ok, so for us who prayed to the gods for a Zeppelin re-union tour in our lifetime we now know it ain’t gonna happen.   I was trolling the web the other day and discovered that the official Led Zeppelin website has quite a generous offering of vintage videos (some in their entirety and other snippits) from the 1968 through post 1980 breakup; their most recent 2009 concert at the O2 Arena in London is not featured which is a bummer.

There are some very cool vintage performances featured .  I personally enjoyed the 1969 performance of How Many More Times (Danish TV ) & 1979’s performance of Nobody’s Fault But Mine (Knebworth).

Click here to check out what Jimmy, Robert, and Jonesy have made available for us.  

If they don’t ever reunite at least we have these incredible performances to enjoy. Check them out and tell us what you think!

***Please note that the link above is safe and will take you to the Official Led Zeppelin website.  However, when I googled “Led Zeppelin 1969 Danish TV” to find the remainder of the 1969 Danish show (How Many More Times) I found a website that had “supposedly” offered the remainder of the original broadcast, please do not go to this website.  BEWARE if you do chose to go to the website you get a nasty Trojan virus and Malware issue (do not fall for the bogus window that pops that looks like your hard drive saying that your computer is corrupted, it’s not, and do not attempt to download the offered software it too is a scam, so please be aware. 

Here at Hi-Fi Central we take pride in providing legit links to our content, please know that.

20
Nov
09

2010 U2 U.S. Tour dates

I was recently informed that U2 will continue the 360 tour in the U.S. beginning in June 6, 2010 in Anaheim, California and wrapping up in July 19th at The Meadlowlands Arena (East Rutherford, NJ).

Although there are a few tickets available for select U.S. shows,  most venues are sold out as would be expected.  It would appear that one must purchase tickets through the U2 site, so good luck.

I’ve heard pretty amazing things about U2 shows; now may be your chance to get what tickets are left.

Click here to see the 2010 tour schedule.

19
Nov
09

Dada Web Radio

Sadly, these days the power-trio Dada is an rather obscure group to many, but in the late 1990’s Dada had a grip on the alternative music scene with their big hit Dizz Knee Land on their debut album Puzzle (1992).  Theycontinued to pump out solid albums afterwards with mild praise

Although Dada is still together (playing random shows from time to time primarily on the West Coast) they have always had a devoted fanbase who is always looking forward to a new tour or album (we continue to hold our breath). 

I saw these guys several times when I lived in Boston in the 90’s (at the now defunct Aerosmith founded Mama Kins and still active Paradise Rock Club); their shows were always tight and energetic, definitely a fun band to see when they came to town.
Per their website (www.dadatheband.com) members have focused on solo side projects:  X Levitation Cult (bass player Joie Calio’s project) and Michael Gurley and the Nightcaps and Butterfly Jones (lead singer Michael Gurley and drummer Phil Leavitts partnered projects).  I have not heard Calio’s X Levitation Cult; but have heard Butterfly Jones and was fairly impressed. 
If you are not familiar with Dada’s albums, I would personally suggest El Subliminoso (2004) as an introductory album; it is one of my favorites.  You can currently pick it upon Amazon.com for about $4!!  Dada recently created a web radio station free for the masses, check it out.  It offers a variety of their more mellow songs from various albums but worth a listen ; click here to check them out.  The highlighted songs in the recent player list are I’m Feeling Nothing, Crumble, and Who You Are;  the other songs are mellow in comparision.
Let us know what you think of them.
16
Nov
09

The English Beat – On tour?

english_beatYes, it’s true The English Beat (or The Beat if you are cool) are currently touring the U.S.  If you are not familiar with this legendary Ska group pick yourself up I Just Can’t Stop It and you should be converted in a short time. 

I’ve provided a link below of some cities they are hitting for the rest of the year; I would imagine they put on a great show. 

11/20/09 Poughkeepsie, NY – The Chance
11/22/09 Teaneck, NJ – Mexacali Live
11/23/09 Portland, ME – Port City Music Hall 

  Click here to see more scheduled shows.

I’ve provided a sample of their hit Mirror in the Bathroom check it out and tell us what you think.

13
Nov
09

magnetic metallica

metallicaNo, that wasn’t an earthquake shaking downtown Albany last night.  It was the sonic assault of the one-time reigning metal gods reclaiming their divinity.  Metallica’s 2-hour show at the Times Union Center re-solidified their status as heavy metal heroes, drawing on a wide variety of songs to please both the old hardcore fans and the newer ones alike.

The darkened stage blazed into a net of laser beams as the first notes of “This Was Just Your Life,” the opening track to their newest album Death Magnetic, blasted out of the speakers.  Singer/guitarist James Hetfield was barley illuminated as he belted out the lyrics, while drummer Lars Ulrich, guitarist Kirk Hammett, and bassist Robert Trujillo danced in shadows around the open stage.  Upon the final notes of the 7-minute song, all the stage lights burst to life, finally giving the crowd a good look at the veteran rockers.  To say the crowd greeted them enthusiastically would be quite understated.  Hetfield whipped the fans into a frenzy between songs, spouting rhetoric about everyone being a part of the Metallica family, blah blah blah…but the audience ate it up.

Following another new song “End of the Line,” long-time fans of the old Metallica got an unbelievable treat – “Ride the Lightning,” the title track of their second album.  And Metallica cranked it out like they just recorded it yesterday rather than 25 years ago (and they probably hadn’t played it live in 20 years at least).

The preamble to “One” featured a monstrous pyrotechnic display as nearly the whole stage erupted in flames, echoing the sounds of war that precede the song.  In my opinion, “One” is about as perfect as a metal song can be, from the beautiful, haunting opening melodies, to the eerie, descriptive lyrics that take us inside the mind of a quadruple amputee who also loses his sight, speech and hearing and is waiting to die, to the final few minutes of machine-gun riffs and wailing guitar solos.  And they played it perfectly.

They played a good number of songs from Death Magnetic, the other highlights being “All Nightmare Long” and “The Day that Never Comes,” both showcasing the band’s return to a much more thrash-metal sound.

Another fantastic surprise for the old fans was “Welcome Home (Sanitarium),” a fantastic blend of beautiful melodies and hardcore metal.

As the set began heading to the finish line, they broke out two of their best – the title track to “Master of Puppets,” for which Hetfield was more than happy to let the audience sing most of the lyrics, and then, taking me and probably everyone by ecstatic surprise, “Battery.”  This is one of the fastest songs they’ve ever recorded, and they played it like they were still in their 20’s instead of pushing 50.  It was astounding…my neck hurts from head-banging.

They closed the set with the overplayed but crowd-pleasing “Enter Sandman,” complete with fireballs and audience sing-a-longs.

They left the stage for a few minutes and came right back with three more oldies: their cover of Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy,” and then two tracks from their first album Kill ‘Em All – “Motorbreath” and “Seek and Destroy,” and during the latter giant Metallica beach balls rained down from the ceiling and bounced around the crowd.  It was a fitting end to a crazy, fun show that, as I alluded to in my previous post, brought all Metallica fans together.  Hmm, maybe that clap-trap about the “Metallica family” has some merit?

(See the full set list here:  http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/metallica/2009/times-union-center-albany-ny-63d73a87.html)

Prior to Metallica, Virginia’s Lamb of God played for almost an hour, shoving their pounding death/thrash metal down everyone’s throats.  Lamb of God is arguably the best metal band to arrive on the scene in the last decade.  Their riffs are incredibly tight, and singer Randy Blythe’s demonic snarling vocals are a great fit.  I saw them open for Slayer about 3 years ago and they nearly upstaged the speed-metal icons.  Last night they probably recruited a lot of new fans who hadn’t heard them, but they probably also turned off a good chunk of the crowd.  Metallica fans have a diverse fan base, and those who really like more radio-friendly metal probably found Lamb of God a little too intense.  But they played well and Blythe interacted a lot with the crowd.  Unfortunately the vocal mix was not loud enough, making it hard to hear the lyrics.

Opening band Volbeat was pretty good.  Their sound was kind of rockabilly-meets-punk, with a little thrash thrown in.  They were very entertaining, and the sparse crowd seemed to enjoy it.

This Metallica concert gets 4 out of 5 stars!




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